It's taken 3208 days but I've finally summited all the Lake District Wainwrights. A wee bit longer than Steve Birkinshaw's recent record of 6 days 13 hours but a great challenge none the less. I saved Mellbreak for last as there was a pint of Loweswater Gold waiting for me in the Kirkstile Inn at it's foot! For a slightly different approach we opted to swim across Crummock Water, stuff the wetsuits in our rucksacks and and follow the Frog Graham route up onto the summit, hence the tri shorts. The legs were still feeling good so we extended the day to include Red Pike and High Stile before retiring to the pub for the aforementioned pint and a roast dinner.
In 2013 I'd been working on the Lakeland fells and seen several competitors from the 10 Peaks race looking lost on Great Gable. The challenge of climbing the 10 highest peaks in the Lakes nonstop seemed entirely logical and so I signed up for this years event. Conditions were looking pretty good with warm temps but a little bit of cloud and rain on the tops, great for those with local knowledge. With plenty of miles in my legs this year I made the conscious decision to race rather than just get round. Visability was down on the first summit of Helvellyn and I passed a few of the racing snakes who were taking the scenic route.
The long traverse over to Bowfell went well as I picked up some very useful trods before nipping up the Bob Graham rake which saved me at least 20 minutes on some of the competitors around me. My challenge suddenly increased when like a total numpty I managed to let my map blow away. Nonetheless I made good time to Mickledore and the choice of Foxes Tarn or Lords Rake. I went for the scree gully of Lords Rake cutting back left up the main fault line from the chockstone. Touching the summit it was straight back down the gully continuing down until I could pick up the traverse path which leads to Lingmell Col below Pikes Crag. Other runners were taking the more direct route to Pillar by the floor of Wasdale but I figured I'd be quicker going via Corridor Route and Great Gable. This bit felt like a score event with runners moving every which way.
Over the top of Great Gable still feeling strong I arrived at the checkpoint at Beck Head to the surprising news that I was the 14th runner through. It was a bit more complicated than that as competitors were free to climb Pillar and Gable in either order and the mathematics of the situation occupied my mind as I commenced the long drag up to Pillar. There were plenty of runners descending towards me, some who had already climbed Gable and others that hadn't. By the time I arrived back at Beck Head I reckoned I really was 14th overall. This was confirmed when I arrived at Honister Pass where I devoured a plate of pasta bolagnaise, a strong coffee and a can of Coke in quick succession.
Out of the door I opted to descend to Borrowdale and pick up the Cumbria way rather than the organisers recommended route via Dalehead Tarn. As I rounded the foot of Cat Bells I surprised the runner in 12th position who was following his map. Ludovic Maillard and I ran together to the base of Skiddaw where it quickly became clear he was a far better climber than me quickly dropping me and disappearing into the distance. We both managed to overtake Sue Savege in 11th place who was having a moment on the final scree slope. The weather was deteriorating fast as we topped out and turned for the final run home. Towards the bottom of the hill my energy levels crashed and my vision narrowed. Swallowing three gels in a row I was startled to see Sue closing fast behind me. The two combined spurred me into a sprint finish back in to Keswick. Right at the death I made my only navigation error of the day having neglected to recce the finish. Taking the long way round via the hospital I sprinted up to the front door of the football club in a time of 15:42 for 12th position and probably my best ever ultra result. A few minutes later Sue arrived by the correct route while Ludovic had finished more than 20 minutes ahead.
Wee video from John Pennifold showcasing the 10 Peaks experience! Just squeezed in in under 24 hours :)
For the past week Berghaus athlete Steve Birkinshaw has been out on the Lakeland Fells running the Wainwrights. Hundreds of folk have been transfixed by his online trackers relentless progress across the map. Joss Naylor's record of 7 days 1 hour has stood for 27 years yet Steve was back in time for last orders in a new record of 6 days and 13 hours for the 518km. More than 100 runners, including myself, took him up on his offer to run the final leg with him and witness history in the making. The reception in a crowded Keswick High Street as Steve ran up to the steps of Moot Hall was incredible and a fitting tribute to a world class performance.
The end of a great weekend of trail running in the Lake District. The Berghaus Trail Team selection weekend brought runners together from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland for a couple of days of presentations, socialising and a spot of mountain running based at Greenside Youth Hostel above Glenridding. The weather played ball, their was a real buzz about the hostel and a lot of smiling faces.
Echoing the surge in popularity of long distance events there was a real focus on ultra running among everyone involved. Gary Morrison won the distance award with 3 x 268miles (The Spine Race) but easily more than half of those attending had run more than 100 miles.
From the Berghaus Trail Running stable Steve Birkinshaw and Helene Whitaker gave very different but insightful presentations on their motivations and future plans under the title 'Inspiration'. Steve's plans for his Wainwright Run are well advanced and his map is a work of art which clearly demonstrates the huge amount of planning that goes into these challenges, a thought echoed by Helene which has contributed to many of her successes.
We were also introduced and had the opportunity to try the Berghaus VapourLight range for the discerning trail runner. These were developed for two of Berghaus' athletes Phillipe and Anna Gatta for their Great Himalayan trail run. For me the Hyperthem reversible jacket and the Hyper Smock look very interesting. The reversible idea for different temperatures has been around since the 80's with varying amounts of success so great to see an updated version in a tailored runners fit. I'd love to see a hooded smock version which would maximise the protection in a very lightweight piece. The Hyper Smock claims to be the lightest waterproof in the world. It could be even lighter if they forewent the zipped arm pocket but I'm a big fan of waterproof smocks and I'll certainly be having a look at this for my plans this year.
I do think Berghaus have missed a trick with their colour scheme. Much of the new MtnHaus clothing that was developed for Leo Houlding's 'Last Great Climb' was produced in a wide array of vivid colours which looked visually stunning but also has an important safety element. From a Mountain Rescue point of view looking for someone in a bright green or yellow jacket is far easy than for someone camouflaged in dark blue.
Ben from Torq gave a very informative lecture on a scientific approach to nutrition. From a sport science perspective it clearly demonstrated how things have progressed in the 17 years since I was last in the lab and I took away a few things to try this season. Interestingly many ultra runners, both elite and novice, while agreeing with the physiological science felt that gels, bars and energy drinks don't address the psychological needs of trying to run big distances. Simon from organisers Freestak did admit he was going to throw something at the first person who mentioned pork pies! Ben recognised the importance of real food but one of his suggestions was still to focus on carbohydrates so a lean ham sandwich or savory Snackerjack rather than rice pudding, a cheese sandwich or the infamous pork pies! A maximal uptake of 60-90g of carbohydrate an hour will still have a net deficit when running and fats have been shown to slow down gastric emptying and increase stomuch issues. As someone who has experienced these problems but feels the need for real food for events over 12 hours this struck a chord and is something I'll try and put into practice
We escaped from the confines of the youth hostel on Saturday with a short group run up towards Helvellyn. Apologies to the many walkers who met a long crocodile of fifty runners enjoying the sunshine. Conditions were even good enough to tempt a few hardy souls to follow the lead of Mr Birkinshaw and sample the delights of an icy Red Tarn! For many the paths of the Lakeland Hills were far rougher than those on which they typically run but without fail they were blown away by the scenery and the potential for adventure.
Saturday evening was spent 'rehydrating' while watching 'The Dragon's Back'. This legendary race along the spine of Wales had only run once way back in 1992 and was won by Helene Whitaker and Martin Stone. Twenty years later in 2012 it was brought back to life. Steve Birkinshaw's win was captured by Slackjaw Films in this award winning film. After the credits we were in the amazing position of being able to quiz Steve about his win and the stories that didn't make the film!
Sunday dawned clear and bright and a longer run was the order of the day. Steve and Helene had brought along a few friends from the fell running world and soon small groups of runners were scattered over the Lakeland Fells! Swirrall Edge is probably at the limit of what can be described as trail running but gives a stunning way up onto the tops. in a chilly wind we looped round via the Dodds before enjoying a technical descent back to Greenside
On the evidence of this weekend and many other races the UK has a thriving and friendly trail running scene. On the back of this is plenty of amazing writing and photography. In a similar vein to the iconic 'Ride' magazine is a new publication focusing on high quality writing from the running world. Like The Wind looks like a very interesting development. Online there are bloggers covering every aspect of our sport. Many were in the Lakes for this weekend and have written up their experiences